St. Joseph's

Patient Stories

Jeff SzukalskiWest Bend man is making waves with a new knee

Like many guys in their mid-30s, Jeff Szukalski, a West Bend business owner, leads an active lifestyle – barefoot skiing, hunting, exercising at the gym. Jeff, however, is 52. And earlier this year he underwent knee replacement surgery. 

“I’m guessing that I’m back to my mid- 30s as far as activities go and how well I feel doing them,” Jeff said. 

Joint replacement can turn back the clock when other treatment options have been exhausted. “We pursue conservative, non-surgical measures until they are no longer effective,” said Timothy Mullin, MD, Froedtert Health Medical Group orthopaedic surgeon who is fellowship-trained in knee and hip replacement. He performed Jeff’s procedure at Froedtert Health St. Joseph’s Hospital. 

Years of injuries and wear and tear took their toll on Jeff’s right knee, starting in 1977 when a snow skiing accident required surgery to repair a torn ligament and meniscus. Two other surgeries followed to correct a second ligament tear and clean up scar tissue and cartilage damage. 

Although Jeff remained physically active, he was hurting. “The pain was very bad,” he said. “I would have to take several ibuprofen tablets twice a day to keep the swelling down.” 

When Jeff came to Dr. Mullin in 2011, it was evident why he was in so much pain: Jeff had a severely deformed knee as a result of post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Dr. Mullin prescribed non-surgical measures, including anti-inflammatory medication, ice and exercise first, then steroid injections. 

“Jeff’s pain became a debilitating factor, significantly limiting his quality of life, and that was when we talked about surgery,” Dr. Mullin said. Because Jeff’s knee was so severely damaged he was not a candidate for partial knee replacement. Dr. Mullin performed a total knee replacement in March 2012. 

Jeff said that he prepared months prior to surgery by exercising his muscles to strengthen them. After surgery, he successfully completed rehab at the Froedtert Health West Bend Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine Center. “Therapy was everything; it did a great job of getting my movement back in my knees, so that I was able to bend and straighten normally,” Jeff said. “I was back at work walking around without a walker after three weeks, and was barefoot skiing in two and a half months.” Most important, he’s painfree. “I have a ton more energy because waking up and being in pain every morning was tiresome.” 

Knee replacement surgery can dramatically improve everyday quality of life, according to Dr. Mullin. “Ultimately, our goal is to get individuals back to the lifestyle they enjoy,” he said.

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